For the second consecutive year, the Dogfight Duals has been reduced to one day because of cancellations. The change didn't affect the Bulldogs because they're focused more on getting to the mat.
"It's exciting no matter how many days because we get to wrestle in front of the hometown crowd," junior Brice Boling said. "You look forward to every tournament because it means you aren't in practice."
On Wednesday, coach Roman Gutierrez received word that Adams City would not be able to be able to make the tournament. That reduced the number of teams from six to five and took away the need for wrestling Friday night.
"Adams City said because of finances and their small team they couldn't make it," Gutierrez said.
The team list now includes Delta, Meeker, Grand Junction Central, Florence, Denver East and Moffat County. Every team will have a dual with each other starting 9 a.m. Saturday.
"We're hoping for the guys to steadily improve this weekend," Gutierrez said. "They need to go out on the mat knowing they can win."
Despite a 12th-place finish at the Warrior Classic in Grand Junction, the Bulldogs remained ranked eighth in Class 4A by On the Mat Rankings. The Bulldogs have been in the top 10 in Class 4A for seven consecutive seasons.
That tradition brings pride to the program. That pride is being challenged for the wrestlers.
"This weekend, we want to show people we can compete," Boling said. "After the Warrior, we have a lot to prove."
The Duals will be a challenging proving ground for every team. There are 22 ranked wrestlers in the event. All but one weight class, 215 pounds, has a ranked wrestler. The 112, 145 and 152 classes each have three ranked wrestlers.
Grand Junction Central is the favorite to win this weekend's tournament.
Central has eight wrestlers ranked in Class 5A and is the fourth-ranked team. Meeker is down from their two straight state titles, but the Cowboys match up well with the Bulldogs. Moffat County's three highest ranked wrestlers, Korey Kostur (145), Daniel Cramblett (152) and Nick Navratil (189) all match up with Meeker's top-ranked wrestlers of Cody Clark, Joe LeBlanc and Jeff Overton.
The Bulldogs and Cowboys have had some epic duals in the past two years.
Two years ago, the Cowboys broke the Bulldogs' 40-plus win streak in duals, and last year, the Bulldogs won in the last match.
Gutierrez said the advantage for Saturday's event is that his young team is promised five matches.
"In a tournament, some of the guys will only get two matches, and it's discouraging," he said. "Saturday, they're promised more matches than that, and it helps with experience."
After a tough week in practice, Gutierrez said he hopes to see a tough-nosed approach before, during and after matches from his Bulldogs.
"I've seen too many wrestlers coming off the mat making excuses," he said. "They need to take one match at a time and look at it as how they can get better, not making up reasons why they didn't win."
The Bulldogs will look similar to the lineup they had at the Warrior Classic. The exceptions are: sophomore Cory Vigil at 103 pounds instead of freshman Craig Gearhart; juniors Chris McAlexander and Levi Weber flipping weight classes, with McAlexander going up to 135 and Weber down to 130; and sophomore Drew Turner wrestling at 140 in place of injured junior Cody Norman.
"There has been a better effort in the wrestling room this week," junior Jake Breslin said. "We have to do it this weekend to build confidence and prove ourselves."